Political News

Lawyer whose firm represented Clinton campaign indicted by special counsel investigating Russia probe

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(WASHINGTON) -- A lawyer whose firm represented Hillary Clinton's campaign during the 2016 presidential election was indicted Thursday by special counsel John Durham on a single charge of making a false statement to the FBI.

Michael Sussmann, an attorney for the Perkins Coie law firm who previously represented the Democratic National Committee following the hacking of its servers by Russia during the 2016 campaign, is accused of lying "about the capacity in which he was providing allegations to the FBI" when he met with a top lawyer from the bureau in September 2016 and provided him information about potential ties between a Russian bank and computer servers in the Trump Organization.

"Specifically, SUSSMANN state falsely that he was not doing his work on the aforementioned allegations "for any client," which led the FBI General Counsel (James A. Baker) to understand that SUSSMANN was acting as a good citizen merely passing along information, not as a paid advocate or political operative," prosecutors write in the indictment.

They allege instead that Sussmamn intentionally misled the FBI general counsel because he was acting at the time on behalf of an unnamed tech executive, an "U.S. internet company" and Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign.

Prior to his indictment Thursday, Sussmann's attorneys provided a statement to ABC News maintaining his innocence.

"Mr. Sussmann has committed no crime," attorneys Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth of the law firm Latham and Watkins said. "Any prosecution here would be baseless, unprecedented, and an unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Department of Justice is supposed to do its work."

"We are confident that if Mr. Sussmann is charged, he will prevail at trial and vindicate his good name," they added.

Durham was appointed by former Attorney General William Barr in May 2019 to investigate allegations of misconduct by members of the FBI and the intelligence community in their investigation of potential ties between Russia and former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign for the presidency. Before his resignation, Barr appointed Durham as special counsel extending his tenure into the Biden administration.

While Durham's probe has long since lapsed the total duration of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, prior to Thursday he had yielded only one indictment against a lower-level FBI lawyer who admitted to doctoring an email used in seeking surveillance against a former aide to Trump's campaign. That lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, was sentenced to probation earlier this year.

Durham has been tasked with creating a report outlining his findings, though it will be up to Attorney General Merrick Garland to determine whether to make those findings public. Garland has said publicly he has no intention of interfering in Durham's work.

The indictment alleges Sussmann began in 2016 working with a U.S. tech executive and other cyber researchers in coordination with the Clinton campaign to assemble "white papers" on a potential communications channel between the Trump Organization and Russian-owned Alfa Bank. Sussmann later provided Baker with the documents in a Sept. 19, 2016 meeting where he is alleged to have made the false statement about who he was acting on behalf of at the time.

The connections were later examined by the FBI, but not substantiated.

In a 2017 deposition with House lawmakers, Sussmann said that he requested the meeting on behalf of a client who was a cybersecurity expert that held data he said showed ties between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. According to a source familiar with the matter, his legal team denied in meetings with Durham's team that his meeting with Baker was coordinated or on behalf of members of Clinton's campaign.

The meeting between Sussman and Baker occurred more than a month after the FBI's "Crossfire Hurricane" investigation -- looking into whether people associated with the Trump campaign were coordinating, wittingly or unwittingly, with the Russian government's efforts to interfere with the 2016 campaign -- was opened on July 31.

Days earlier, on July 27, 2016, then-candidate Trump said publicly at a campaign event, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the more than 30,000 emails that are missing." This was an apparent reference to Clinton emails that had been stored on a private server during the time she had served as secretary of state.

In the spring of 2016, Russian military intelligence had hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee. Emails and documents stolen by the Russians had already been leaked in June and July of 2016 and Trump continued to encourage more leaks as they continued throughout the campaign.

The New York Times, which first reported news of Durham's plans to seek an indictment against Sussmann, also reported that Garland has declined to overrule Durham's decision.

Sussmann's legal team has communicated to Durham's team that they believe his case will fall apart under scrutiny for several different reasons, a source said. They have noted that Sussmann's alleged statement to Baker was made nearly five years ago and in a private meeting with no witnesses. And they argue the statements identified by Durham are immaterial in that they likely had no significant impact on any actual investigation being conducted by the FBI at the time.

In the indictment, however, prosecutors contend the statement was material "because, among other reasons, Sussmann's false statement misled the FBI general counsel and other FBI personnel concerning the political nature of his work and deprived the FBI of information that might have permitted it more fully to assess and uncover the origins of the relevant data and technical analysis, including the identities and motivations of Sussmann's clients."

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Apprehensions at the southern border surpass 200,000 in August

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(WASHINGTON) -- Customs and Border Protection encountered over 200,000 attempted crossings in August, fewer than the two-decade high seen in July, but still far more than in past years.

While the Biden administration has asked for patience, some Republican lawmakers are sounding the alarm over what they consider a continuing crisis.

The 208,887 of apprehensions in August were fewer than in July, when 212,672 people were encountered crossing the border -- eclipsing every year since 2000. But last year, CBP made 50,014 apprehensions, just a fraction of this August's number. In 2019, there were 62,707 apprehensions and the number was even smaller -- 46,719 -- in 2018.

According to the data released by CBP on Wednesday, 25% of the crossings were made by people who had already been encountered -- leaving 156,641 unique encounters last month.

The number of unaccompanied minors has remained steady since July, at nearly 19,000 each month. In August, more than 1,400 unaccompanied children a day, on average, were in CBP custody -- up 100 from July.

CBP says fentanyl seizures rose 34%, along with a 36% increase in pounds of cocaine seized from July to August. Fentanyl seizures are also up 50% so far this year, with more than 10,000 pounds confiscated, according to the data.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday downplayed the numbers.

"Once again, we have a plan and we're executing it. The situation doesn't change with a flick of a switch, it requires a tremendous amount of work," he said during a fireside chat with ABC News at the Homeland Security Enterprise Forum.

But ranking member on the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, was not so optimistic.

"Once again, CBP operational statistics show that we are seeing the worst unlawful migration crisis in more than twenty years," Portman said in a statement on Wednesday night. "The Border Patrol has now made more than a million apprehensions of unlawful migrants since President Biden took office. CBP reported more than 208,000 total encounters at the border in August, quadrupling the number from last August."

Former President Donald Trump's Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf warned that Border Patrol agents will soon reach their breaking point if crossings continue at the current rate.

“President Biden’s failed border-security policies are simply unsustainable. The men and women of federal law enforcement cannot continue to deal with these crisis-level numbers. They are already overwhelmed and overburdened. The breakdown is coming," Wolf said in a statement

The administration, however, has framed the drop in encounters since July as a sign things are moving in the right direction.

"The men and women at CBP continue to step up to meet the demands of high numbers of encounters at our southern border. CBP recorded 2 percent fewer encounters in August than July," Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller said in a release. "The vast majority of single adults encountered in August, along with a substantial share of families, continued to be expelled under the CDC's Title 42 authority."

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Democratic drama as House advances Biden's agenda: What's in the draft reconciliation bill?

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(WASHINGTON) -- Following months of negotiations, House Democrats advanced critical legislation late Wednesday that will help President Joe Biden deliver on a massive $3.5 trillion human infrastructure package filled with social and progressive priorities.

Thirteen House committees spent countless hours over the week marking up legislation to meet a self-imposed Sep. 15 deadline. The bill language passed by the committees will now be drafted into a final bill that is expected to be married with the Senate’s version of the bill in the coming weeks.

The negotiations this week were not without drama, as Democrats are dealing with growing disagreements on policy between progressives and moderates in the House, as well as skeptical holdouts Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema who have concerns with overall spending.

Manchin has previously called for a "strategic pause" in moving forward with the reconciliation bill and has repeatedly said he does not support passing another multi-trillion dollar spending bill.

Biden on Wednesday held separate meetings with both Manchin and Sinema as a form of personal outreach.

"The president certainly believes there’ll be ongoing discussions," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. "Not that there’s necessarily going to be a conclusion out of those today, but that was the primary focus and purpose of these meetings."

The final bill will include significant new investments in health care, child care, higher education, workforce training, and paid family and medical leave which would include 12 weeks paid family and medical leave for most working Americans.

It will also include plans to permanently close the Medicaid coverage gap, expand Medicare by offering seniors access to hearing, dental and vision benefits; extend several tax credits; strengthen the Affordable Care Act, invest in maternal health, and provide additional investments in public health. It would also make major changes to immigration, climate, and tax laws.

Democrats intend to off-set the costs of the package by raising taxes on wealthy Americans, profitable corporations and investors.

The House Ways and Means Committee released a plan to raise the corporate tax rate to 26.5% for businesses earning more than $5 million in income. The corporate rate would be lowered to 18% for small businesses earning less than $400,000; all other businesses would continue to pay the current rate of 21%.

The legislation would also raise the top income tax rate to 39.6% from 37% for married couples who report taxable income of more than $450,000 and for individuals who report more than $400,000. The proposal also includes a 3% surcharge on individual income above 5% and increases the top tax rate for capital gains – the proceeds from selling an asset – to 25%, up from 20%.

It's not clear how much revenue the tax increases could generate and whether they would fully offset the $3.5 trillion spending bill.

"I want to thank all thirteen committees given instructions in this process for reporting recommendations within their jurisdictions for the Build Back Better Act. I also want to express my gratitude and admiration for the hardworking committee staff who sacrificed sleep and, in many cases, time with their families this summer in order to make sure that this critical legislation reflects Democrats’ focus on helping Americans access opportunity and achieve real economic security. We will continue our work on this legislation in the coming days, as we take action to deliver on President Biden's plan to Build Back Better," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement late Wednesday.

House committee chairs are expected to brief Democrats on their portions of the spending bill on Friday. The House is set to return from a six-week recess on Monday.

"This package, coupled with the bipartisan infrastructure plan, represents our firm belief that it’s not just the roads that get you to work that require funding, basic supports like child care and paid leave are also essential features of society worthy of investment. As the broader negotiations continue, I must emphasize that now is not the time to settle for less. The American people are looking to us as members of the Democratic Party to push ourselves and set the highest possible standards for what’s possible. Twelve weeks of universal paid family and medical leave, guaranteed access to child care, strong proposals to combat climate change, and responsibly funding our priorities are just some of the measures that must remain in this package and become law," said House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal in a statement.

But serious issues remain.

A trio of moderate House Democrats came out against the drug pricing plan in Democrats' sprawling agenda as it made its way through the House.

Reps. Kathleen Rice, Scott Peters, and Kurt Schrader on Wednesday opposed language in the House Energy and Commerce Committee that would give the federal government a greater role in negotiating drug prices. Another key House panel endorsed the drug pricing plan later Wednesday evening, but leadership may not yet have the votes to pass it as part of a larger bill.

It’s another bump in the road for leadership that underscores the challenge facing the Biden White House and the Democrats' narrow majority.

"Polling consistently shows immense bipartisan support for Democrats’ drug price negotiation legislation, including overwhelming majorities of Republicans and independents who are fed up with Big Pharma charging Americans so much more than they charge for the same medicines overseas. Delivering lower drug costs is a top priority of the American people and will remain a cornerstone of the Build Back Better Act as work continues between the House, Senate and White House on the final bill," Henry Connolly, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement to ABC News.

Northeastern lawmakers are also hoping the final package repeals a cap on deductions for state and local taxes – SALT – imposed by Republicans in 2017. Rep. Tom Souzzi, D-NY, has made clear that without SALT, he’s a “no” on the overall reconciliation package.

"I have been consistent for six months: 'No SALT, no deal'," Suozzi said in a statement.

House Democrats have said they will pursue "meaningful" change to the $10,000 limit on the federal deduction for state and local taxes. However, repealing the cap on the write-off may primarily benefit wealthy households, opponents have said.

The measure has been a sticking point in negotiations among lawmakers in high tax states.

While Democrats don’t need GOP support to pass their $3.5 trillion spending bill, due to the reconciliation process which allows legislation to pass with a simple majority, they have to get votes from every Democratic senator and nearly every House member.

House Democrats plan to tweak their bill in the coming days ahead, but they are under a tight deadline to get agreement with the Senate so that a bill can clear both chambers. Their goal is to finish their work before Sept. 27 – when Pelosi has promised she will allow the House to begin considering a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Pelosi has long vowed to hold on to that bipartisan bill until the much larger, $3.5 trillion "human" infrastructure bill filled with Democratic priorities is passed first.

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

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Fence goes up around US Capitol, as law enforcement braces for Sept. 18 protest

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(WASHINGTON) -- Fencing outside the U.S. Capitol was reinstalled late Wednesday ahead of the "Justice for J6" rally this weekend.

The fencing erected after the Jan. 6 riot was removed in July.
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"Justice for J6" is being billed by organizers as a protest for defendants who are being detained by the government in connection to the January insurrection at the Capitol.

The fencing is just the latest security measure for a rally that has some in law enforcement on high alert.

Federal law enforcement agencies have become concerned that far-right extremists, including the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys could come to Washington for the protest.

U.S. Capitol Police is the leading agency for the event.

"We are closely monitoring Sept. 18 and we are planning accordingly," said Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger. "After Jan. 6, we made department-wide changes to the way we gather and share intelligence internally and externally. I am confident the work we are doing now will make sure our officers have what they need to keep everyone safe."

Every available Capitol Police officer will be working and the Washington Metropolitan Police Department said they are also "fully prepared" for the protest.

"As with all First Amendment demonstrations, MPD will be monitoring and assessing the activities and planning accordingly with our federal law enforcement partners," an MPD spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News. "MPD will have an increased presence around the city where demonstrations will be taking place and will be prepared to make street closures for public safety."

Additionally, the FBI Washington Field Office said they are working closely with state local and federal partners.

Javed Ali, a former national counterterrorism director on the National Security Council said agencies have cause for concern.

"While the government has not yet issued threat bulletins about specific and credible plots on that day, like 6 January there may be people who attend in a highly agitated mindset and then switch quickly to violent action with little-to-no warning," Ali said.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters last week that information sharing is key to avoiding another incident like Jan. 6.

He said the Department of Homeland Security has increased information sharing efforts throughout the country.

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DOJ documents impacts of Texas abortion ban in new court filings

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(WASHINGTON) -- Women driving hundreds of miles alone for an abortion, clinics overwhelmed with out-of-state patients, providers facing "relentless harassment" from "emboldened vigilante activities," those are some of the impacts detailed by the federal government in new court documents since the most restrictive abortion law went into effect in Texas earlier this month.

Nearly a week after announcing a lawsuit against the state, the U.S. Department of Justice filed for an immediate injunction Tuesday to halt the enforcement of the law, known as SB8, which bars physicians from providing abortions once they detect a so-called fetal heartbeat -- technically the flutter of electrical activity within the cells in an embryo. That can be seen on an ultrasound as early as six weeks into a pregnancy -- before many women even know they're pregnant.

In their latest filing, the DOJ documented the impact of the unprecedented law based on declarations from the leaders of women's health clinics, doctors and abortion rights advocates in support of the motion for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.

"The devastating effects warned of in the pre-enforcement litigation immediately became a reality for patients and providers in Texas," the emergency motion states. "S.B. 8 has gravely and irreparably impaired women's ability to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion across the State."

Under the law, between 85% and 95% of all abortions previously provided will stop, according to the motion. One Planned Parenthood affiliate in Texas went from providing 205 abortions the week before SB8 went into effect, to 52 the week after, according to the court documents.

As a result, "Women are being forced to travel hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of miles to obtain an abortion under harrowing circumstances in the middle of a COVID surge," the motion states.

The DOJ recounted the experience of one patient, a minor, who was allegedly raped by a family member and traveled eight hours, from Galveston, Texas, to Oklahoma, for an abortion. There is an exception under the Texas law for abortions in cases of medical emergencies, but not for cases of incest or rape.

"[Other] survivors of sexual assault have to bear the additional burden of taking time off work and arranging childcare because abortions are not available in Texas," the motion states.

According to the court documents, one patient drove a 1,000-mile roundtrip alone "because she didn't have paid time off work and couldn't afford" to miss her shift. Another "piled her children into her car and drove over 15 hours overnight to obtain a medication abortion in Kansas rather than struggle to patch together the money needed for airfare and child care or remain in limbo," Anna Rupani, co-executive director of the advocacy group Fund Texas Choice, said in her declaration.

One patient traveled six hours each way to Oklahoma alone because she was worried she would make someone liable for helping her, the court documents state. Under SB8, private citizens can sue a person they "reasonably believed" provided an illegal abortion or assisted someone in getting it in the state, such as by driving them to an appointment.

On average, patients are traveling 650 miles each way to get to abortion clinics in the Southwest, according to the DOJ. The waits and logistical hurdles in planning travel to another state "have made it such that some women are no longer eligible for a medication abortion and instead are subjected to more invasive procedural abortions," the motion states.

SB8 not only affects Texans, but has had an "extreme impact on the rights of women in other states," the motion argues. Clinics in nearby states, including Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado, have been "overwhelmed" by an influx of Texas residents seeking abortions, with clinics in Tulsa and Oklahoma City in particular seeing an "overall staggering 646% increase" in Texan patients compared to the first six months of the year, according to the court documents.

Planned Parenthood health centers in Oklahoma are seeing scheduling backlogs of "several weeks" due to the number of Texan patients, while some clinics are simply unable to accommodate large numbers of out-of-state patients due to current demands and staffing challenges "given the current threats from S.B. 8 layered atop the challenges of hiring in a pandemic," according to the court documents.

Abortion clinic staff have also been impacted, the DOJ argues, as SB8 has "emboldened vigilante activities" against abortion providers and staff, including yelling at, recording and trying to follow them home."

Staff are also concerned about the threat of potential lawsuits. Whole Woman's Health, which has 17 doctors on staff across its three abortion facilities in Texas, reported that only one doctor "unconditionally agreed to work" after the law was enacted, according to the court documents.

"For most of our physicians, the risk was too great to even come to work," Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, said in her declaration.

Some clinics risk closure for good under the law, supporters of an immediate injunction said.

"If the law remains in effect for an extended period of time, and we are only able to serve a fraction of our patients with a fraction of our staff, we will have to shutter our doors and stop providing any healthcare to the communities we serve," Hagstrom Miller said. "I believe that, without court-ordered relief in the next couple of weeks, S.B. 8 will shutter most if not all of the remaining abortion clinics in Texas."

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Biden has 'great confidence' in Milley after secret actions in Trump's final months

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Wednesday expressed "great confidence" in his top military adviser, Army Gen. Mark Milley, after revelations he made secret calls to Chinese counterparts in President Donald Trump's final days in office -- and as a former official told ABC News -- Milley wasn't acting alone.

"I have great confidence in Gen. Milley," Biden told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega, during an event at the White House.

The president's defense of Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Trump and now under Biden, came a day after reports that a forthcoming book would reveal behind-the-scenes actions that Milley took to avoid war with China or Trump launching a nuclear strike.

But Milley was not the only top defense official to send a message to China during Trump's final days in office, a former senior Pentagon official told ABC News.

Rather, he was actually following the lead of then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the official said.

Milley's Oct. 30 conversation with his Chinese counterpart, first reported in the forthcoming book "Peril," by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, was meant to allay Chinese fears that Trump was planning a secret attack ahead of the presidential election. It was part of a coordinated effort started a week earlier by Esper, the former official said.

The outreach came as intelligence reports suggested the Chinese were increasingly concerned that Trump would launch a military strike on China.

Esper instructed another top Pentagon official, a civilian, to convey a message from Esper to his Chinese counterpart, Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, to assure him the U.S. had no intention of attacking China, the former official said.

"We saw indications the Chinese were over-reacting to rhetoric coming out of D.C.," the former official said. "We conveyed that everything is under control, we have no plans (to attack). We didn't want a misperception and misunderstanding or whatever, and we end up in some type of confrontation that leads to conflict."

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff followed up this outreach with the call to his own counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People's Liberation Army. Esper and Milley coordinated their actions, the former official said.

"The notion that somehow Milley was rogue on diplomacy is just completely wrong," the former official said. "It's not how it happened. It began with (Esper) trying to make sure the United States didn't end up at some needless confrontation with the Chinese weeks before the election."

Esper and Milley, however, did agree not to inform U.S. national security adviser Robert O'Brien or anybody else at the White House about the conversation, according to the former official.

Woodward and Costa also reported that, after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, Milley feared Trump could "go rogue" and worried that he could stoke military conflict to cling to power and derail the peaceful transfer of power.

On Jan. 8, Milley called Li and assured him the United States was "100 percent steady" and not on the brink of collapse or war, despite the unrest in Washington, according to "Peril," which ABC News obtained ahead of its Sept. 21 release.

During Milley's October call with Li, Woodward and Costa reported, Milley pledged to provide the Chinese a heads up if the U.S. did plan to attack. But the former official cast doubt on whether Milley actually made that promise.

The official portrayed the call in a more mundane light, portraying it instead as an effort, through commonly used channels, to prevent any misunderstanding that would lead the Chinese to act as if an American attack was coming.

A spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday that Milley's conversations with his foreign military counterparts, including the Chinese, take place "regularly" and "remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict."

"His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability," the spokesman, Col. Dave Butler, said, not denying the reported details of the call.

The calls, Butler said, were "staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense" and other federal government agencies.

Woodward and Costa also reported that, on Jan. 8 -- two days after the Capitol riot -- Milley convened a meeting at the Pentagon with military officials responsible for relaying orders for a military or nuclear strike and made clear he "must be directly involved" with the process of launching a nuclear weapon. While the authors reported the meeting was unscheduled, the former Pentagon official told ABC News the gathering was, in fact, one that had been regularly scheduled.

Butler, the spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the meeting had taken place "in light of media reporting."

"Gen. Milley frequently conducts meetings with uniformed leaders across the Services to ensure all leaders are aware of current issues," Butler said, referring to the different military branches. "The meeting regarding nuclear weapons protocols was to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures in light of media reporting on the subject."

In a statement Tuesday, Trump called Milley's actions "treason" and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called on the general to resign.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, though, on Wednesday expressed strong support for Milley.

"I can't speak to the former president's experience with him or the former president's views of him, but this president, this current president, who follows the Constitution, who's not fomenting an insurrection, who follows the rule of law," Psaki said, "has complete confidence in Chairman Milley and him serving -- continuing to serve in his role."

The Joint Chiefs of Staff said that Milley has followed the Constitution.

"Gen. Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution," its spokesman, Butler, said.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Wednesday he had seen "nothing in what I've read that would cause any concern." Kirby said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had "full trust and confidence in Chairman Milley and the job that he's doing."

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel, Luis Martinez and Matt Seyler contributed reporting.

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60% of Californians voting in recall view Republican Party unfavorably, preliminary exit polling shows

(LOS ANGELES) -- Positive results on handling the pandemic, unfavorable views of the Republican Party and a turnout advantage among Democrats cemented Gov. Gavin Newsom's efforts to retain his seat in California's recall election, according to exit poll results.

ABC News projected shortly after polls closed that Newsom would not be recalled, according to preliminary exit polling data and early vote totals.

Some results were less incumbent-friendly: Nearly 6 in 10 voters called the cost of living in their area "unmanageable," and the electorate divided evenly in rating the state's economy positively or negatively, 50-47%. But neither was enough to deny Newsom his win.

More voters called the pandemic the state's top issue, 31%, than picked any of four other issues offered in the exit poll -- and 80% of those voters supported retaining Newsom in office. In sharp contrast, among voters focused on the economy, 68% voted to remove him, as did 89% of those who cited crime as the state's biggest problem.

Indeed, the election came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released positive data on the pandemic in California, reporting that it is lowest nationally in per-capita weekly COVID-19 cases, tied for the second-lowest death rate and the only state to have less than a high level of community transmission. Eighty-four percent of adults in the state have received at least one dose of a vaccine, ranking it in the top-10 states nationally.

Overall, 55% in the exit poll results approved of the way Newsom is handling his job, 54% said he's in touch with their concerns and 55% said they'd be "concerned" or "scared" if he were removed.

Just about 3 in 10 said Newsom's pandemic control measures are too strict, countering a key argument in the recall drive against him. A broad 70% supported the state's student mask mandate and 63% sided with the governor in seeing vaccination as more of a public health responsibility than a personal choice. Notably, just 24% said the pandemic is getting worse in the state; a plurality, 39%, said it's improving, with the rest saying it's staying the same.

Tellingly, among voters who called Newsom’s pandemic policies too strict, 92% voted to recall him. But he won nearly as many, 86%, of those who called his measures about right -- as well as 82% of those who said they weren’t strict enough.

Underscoring the GOP's challenges in California, 62% rated the Republican Party unfavorably, compared with a tepid but still positive 51% favorable rating for the Democratic Party. More fundamentally, Democrats outnumbered Republicans in exit poll data by 17 percentage points, 43-26% (with the rest independents and others). That resembled the electorate in Newsom's 2018 election as governor, 46-23%, Democrat-Republican.

Newsom only managed an even split among independents; they voted 50-50 on the recall. But the wide turnout advantage of Democrats over Republicans tipped the scale.

It was far from a replay of the recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in 2003. Then Democrats and Republicans were evenly divided, 39-38%. A vast 83% rated the state's economy negatively. And just 27% approved of Davis' work as governor, half of Newsom's approval now.

For his part, President Joe Biden – who campaigned with Newsom on Monday -- had a 56% approval rating in these exit poll results. Biden won the state in 2020 with 63% support; in this election, 55% of voters said they voted for him a year ago, 33% for former President Donald Trump.

Just 34% expressed a favorable opinion of Newsom's leading challenger, Republican Larry Elder, while 50% saw him unfavorably. That made Elder less of a draw than Arnold Schwarzenegger, who held a 50-45% favorable-unfavorable rating when he unseated Davis 18 years ago.

Indeed, while Elder was bidding to become California's first Black governor, 81% of Black voters (a slim 7% of the electorate) cast their ballots to retain Newsom.

A far larger group in the state, Hispanic/Latino voters, made up a quarter of the turnout in exit poll results. That compares with 31% in the 2020 presidential election, but surpasses this group's share of the electorate in previous midterms in data since 1994 and in the 2003 recall contest alike. Fifty-eight percent of Latinos voted to retain Newsom -- including 62% of Latina women, declining to a closer 53-47% retain/remove vote among Latino men.

His weakest group was non-college educated white voters; per the exit poll data, 57% in this group voted to recall him.

Regionally, the exit poll data indicated support for Newsom peaking in the Bay Area and Los Angeles County, together home to 4 in 10 voters, while voters in extensive inland California voted by a 10-point margin to remove him.

The recall election exit poll was conducted with a mix of telephone, email to web and text-based interviews with early and absentee voters and in-person interviews with Election Day voters at a sample of polling places. Results are final after weighting adjustments.

Issues

As noted, 31% in the exit poll data cited the pandemic as the most important issue among five offered, compared with homelessness, 22%; the economy, 17%; wildfires, 14%; and crime, 8%.

On an additional issue not included in the top-issue list, 60% called climate change a very serious problem for the state and 19% call it somewhat serious. Just 17% didn't think it's serious.

Voting

Eighty percent of voters, according to exit poll results, cast their ballot in advance of the election day, mostly by mail rather than at a drop-off location. Majorities in the exit poll results reported voting by mail across partisan lines -- 85% of Democrats, 73% of independents and 61% of Republicans.

If follows that late campaigning can't have made much of a difference: Eighty-seven percent of voters say they made their choice more than two weeks ago; indeed, nearly 7 in 10 say they decided before August.

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DOJ files for immediate injunction to halt enforcement of Texas abortion law

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(WASHINGTON) -- After announcing their lawsuit last week, the U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday evening filed for an immediate injunction to halt Texas' enforcement of their restrictive law banning most abortions in the state.

"The State of Texas adopted S.B. 8 to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights," the DOJ says in their motion. "This attempt to shield a plainly unconstitutional law from review cannot stand. The United States seeks a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of S.B. 8."

Department officials wrote that the order "is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interest of the United States in ensuring that its States respect the terms of the national compact," adding that "it is also necessary to protect federal agencies, employees, and contractors whose lawful actions S.B. 8 purports to prohibit."

"The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that Texas cannot insulate itself from judicial review for its constitutional violations and to protect the important federal interests that S.B. 8 impair," the DOJ's motion says.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last week that the Justice Department had filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas, challenging its abortion law. The move set up a high-stakes legal battle after the Supreme Court allowed the law to go into effect earlier this month. Garland also said at the time that the DOJ was seeking an immediate court order preventing the enforcement of SB8 in Texas.

The lawsuit accuses Texas lawmakers of enacting the law -- which bans physicians from providing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, or as soon as six weeks into a pregnancy, and does not contain exceptions for cases of rape or incest -- "in open defiance of the Constitution."

And in a press conference, Garland said Texas Republicans are crafting a "statutory scheme" through the law "to nullify the Constitution of the United States."

It's unclear when the judge might rule on the DOJ's emergency request.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom will not be removed in California recall election, ABC News projects

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(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- California has voted not to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, according to a projection from ABC News based on exit polls and an analysis of votes.

With 65% of the expected vote reported so far, 66% of electors in Tuesday's special election are against recalling the Democratic governor.

"I'm humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercise their fundamental right to vote, and express themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division by rejecting the cynicism," Newsom said late Tuesday night in his victory speech. "By rejecting, so much of the negativity that's defined our politics in this country over the course of so many years."

Californians were faced with a two-part question -- if they would like to recall Newsom and who they would like to replace him with if he was recalled. Newsom needed more than 50% of voters to vote against recalling him to keep his job as the top executive of the most populous state.

Forty-six candidates were competing to replace him, and while the question is moot, nationally syndicated conservative radio host Larry Elder -- the frontrunner going into the election -- leads that pack with 44% of the vote currently.

In post-election remarks, Elder conceded the recall was unsuccessful.

"Let's be gracious in defeat," Elder said, after he was met with boos when he referenced Newsom by name. "We may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war."

This is the fourth time in the nation's history that voters have had an election to recall their governor, and only one governor has been recalled in the last century. In 2003, Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis, facing extremely low approval ratings, was recalled and replaced with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This time, Republicans have a crowded primary field and, before nationally syndicated conservative radio host Larry Elder's entrance into the race, the field was without a clear leader.

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer was once thought to be the front-runner and is seen as the moderate in the race. Businessman John Cox, who was the GOP's gubernatorial nominee in 2018, campaigned across the state with a live bear and an 8-foot ball of trash.

Reality star and Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner entered the recall field, although she spent some time out of the country in Australia, reportedly filming a celebrity edition of a reality show.

Going into the election, numbers appeared to be in the incumbent's favor, but Newsom still recruited some of the biggest Democratic heavy-hitters to stump for him, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. President Joe Biden hit the trail with Newsom to close out his campaign in Long Beach, California, on Monday night.

"This is not hyperbole. The eyes of the nation are on California because the decision you're about to make isn't just going to have a huge impact on California, it's going to reverberate around the nation, and quite frankly not a joke around the world," Biden said Monday.

According to preliminary exit polls, 55% of voters participating in this election approved of how Newsom is handling his job as governor. In 2003, exit polls showed Davis' approval rating at 26% -- a stark difference from how the voters perceive the current governor.

Historically, gubernatorial recalls produce similar vote margins for the governor holding office as they had in their last election, according to recall expert and senior fellow at Wagner College, Joshua Spivak. Gray Davis got 47% of the vote in 2002, and 44% in 2003 when he was recalled. In Wisconsin in 2010, Scott Walker was elected with 52.2% of the vote, and defeated his recall with 53.1%.

In 2018, Newsom won the state with 61.9% of the vote to GOP nominee John Cox's 38.1%. In 2020, Biden carried with a similar margin, 63.5% of the vote to Trump's 34.3%.

Democratic voter registration in the Golden State largely outpaces that of both Republicans and independents, putting Newsom at an advantage. So far, Democrats are leading both groups combined when it comes to returning their ballots: Democrats have returned nearly 4.1 million compared to the 3.8 million Republican and independent ballots that have been returned, according Monday data from Political Data Inc.

Democrats have attempted to nationalize the race to increase enthusiasm, warning of lawmaking similar to that of Republican-led states.

Harris, a native of the Bay Area, rallied with Newsom on Thursday and warned of the national consequences the recall could have if it was successful, referencing the recent change in abortion laws in Texas, among other things.

"What's happening in Texas, what's happening in Georgia, what's happening around our country with these policies that are about attacking women's rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, workers rights, they think if they can win in California they can do this anywhere, but we're gonna show them they can't," Harris said.

In preliminary exit polls, a plurality (31%) of voters said the pandemic was the most important issue facing the Golden State, and Newsom spent the campaign warning voters about potential policy changes surrounding the coronavirus if the recall passed. His team released an ad painting the election as "life or death," and the governor singled out Elder's promises that he would immediately end mask mandates and testing for state employees.

Preliminary exit polls also showed support for Newsom's coronavirus policies. Only about 3 in 10 voters feel that mitigation measures put in place by the governor are too strict, and 7 in 10 support the state requiring students wear masks in schools Additionally, the vast majority of voters feel the pandemic is either getting better (39%) or staying the same (31%), rather than getting worse (24%).

Ahead of the election, Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, were already baselessly raising the alarm about the potential for voter fraud, based on conspiracies about the 2020 election. Trump claimed that the election was "totally rigged," even though the state has been reliably Democratic for decades, voting against Republican presidential candidates in every election since 1992.

Elder warned of "shenanigans" last week -- though he told ABC News Saturday, "So many people are going to vote to have it recalled, I'm not worried about fraud."

Elder previously said he believed Biden won the 2020 election "fairly and squarely." But he was encouraging his supporters to call a hotline to report issues of voter fraud for litigation purposes in the recall, saying he fears there will be integrity issues similar to those of the 2020 election -- despite there being no widespread evidence of voter fraud in November.

Even before results were released, Elder had a link on his website -- which has seemingly since been removed -- asking visitors to sign a petition "demanding a special session of the California legislature to investigate and ameliorate the twisted results of this 2021 Recall Election of Governor Gavin Newsom."

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Top military adviser secretly assured China Trump would not attack to stay in office, book claims

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's senior military adviser took secret precautions to prevent Trump from being able to launch a nuclear weapon or taking military action after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, according to a new book.

Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the president's top military aide, feared that Trump could "go rogue" after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and worried that he could stoke military conflict to cling to power and derail the peaceful transfer of power, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa write in Peril.

Milley "was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline" after the election and had become "manic, screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies," they wrote in the new book, obtained by ABC News ahead of its Sept. 21 release.

On Jan. 8, two days after the assault on the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, Milley called his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng, to assure him that the United States was "100 percent steady" and not on the brink of collapse or war despite the unrest in Washington, according to the book. He reportedly did not tell Trump about the call.

He placed a similar call in October, according to the book, to allay Chinese fears that Trump was planning a secret attack ahead of the presidential election.

That same day, Milley also convened an unscheduled meeting at the Pentagon with military officials responsible for relaying orders for a military or nuclear strike. He made clear that he "must be directly involved" with the process of launching a nuclear weapon, Woodward and Costa wrote.

"No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I'm part of that procedure," Milley told the officers as he looked them in the eye and asked them to affirm their understanding, according to the book.

"Some might contend Milley had overstepped his authority and taken extraordinary power for himself," Woodward and Costa wrote. "But his actions, he believed, were a good faith precaution to ensure there was no historic rupture in the international order, no accidental war with China or others, and no use of nuclear weapons."

Milley was not the only senior Trump administration official worried about Trump's behavior and the potential national security implications. CIA Director Gina Haspel also worried that Trump would attack Iran after he declined to rule out military action over its nuclear program in November, the authors wrote.

"This is a highly dangerous situation. We are going to lash out for his ego?" Haspel said to Milley in a phone call, according to the book.

Haspel also reportedly told Milley that the country was "on the way to a right-wing coup" after Trump refused to concede to Joe Biden in November.

"The whole thing is insanity. He is acting out like a six-year-old with a tantrum," she said, according to the book.

Woodward and Costa said they conducted more than 200 interviews for their book on "deep background," with the condition that the firsthand participants and witnesses to the events described not be named as sources for the project.

They also wrote that they obtained extensive contemporaneous notes and documents in their report, including a full transcript of Milley's call with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, when she inquired about nuclear safeguards.

"What precautions are available to prevent an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or from accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike?" Pelosi asked Milley, who told her there were "a lot of checks in the system."

Pelosi was skeptical, according to the book, pointing to the Capitol riot and the lack of intervention from the White House.

"You know he's crazy. He's been crazy for a long time," Pelosi said, according to the book.

"Madam Speaker, I agree with you on everything," Milley replied, the authors wrote.

Milley, through a spokesman, declined to comment and a spokesperson for Pelosi did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

In an interview with conservative television network Newsmax on Tuesday evening, Trump said he never considered attacking China and said Milley's reported call with his Chinese counterpart was "treason." Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on Biden to fire Milley, who now serves as his top military adviser.

Peril, a follow-up to Woodward's earlier books about the Trump administration, Fear and Rage, include new details of efforts inside the Trump White House and administration to challenge the results of the 2020 election.

Trump, who lashed out at Cabinet secretaries who acknowledged the incoming Biden administration, also pressured Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election results in an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 5.

"I've done everything I could, and then some, to find a way around this. It's simply not possible," Pence told Trump about his ceremonial role presiding over the electoral vote count, according to the book.

"No, no, no!" Trump shouted back. "You don't understand, Mike. You can do this. I don't want to be your friend anymore if you don't do this."

Pence confided in former Vice President and Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle about his role, and asked if there was anything he could do to do as Trump had ordered, the authors recounted.

"You don't know the position I'm in," Pence told Quayle.

"I do know the position you're in," Quayle replied, according to the book. "I also know what the law is. You listen to the parliamentarian. That's all you do. You have no power."

In Peril, Woodward and Costa also explore Biden's decision to run for president and the behind-the-scenes machinations of his campaign to win the Democratic nomination and face Trump.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Senate Democrats introduce The Freedom to Vote Act

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(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Democrats on Tuesday introduced their latest version of a sweeping election reform bill to counter the record-number of voting restrictions that have passed in GOP-led states, which they say make it harder for minorities and low-income Americans to cast a ballot.

The modified bill, now known as The Freedom to Vote Act, is a compromise after the previous For The People Act failed to pass in the Senate last June.

Significantly, the new bill was crafted by a group that included moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, a key swing vote, after he opposed an earlier version of the legislation charging that it was too broad and lacked bipartisan support.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., promised a vote on the bill next week, most likely a procedural vote to break an expected GOP filibuster.

"This is a good proposal. One that nobody in this chamber should oppose," Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning. "My colleague Senator Manchin is working with Republicans to secure support for the bill and we look forward to hearing what changes they might make on legislation."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had a different take.

"Seemingly every few weeks, Democrats take another run at this. This week's latest 'compromise' is just a compromise between the left and the far left. It's the product of Washington Democrats negotiating with each other about how much power they should grab. It contains many of the same fatal flaws as their previous attempted takeovers that have already fallen flat," McConnell said.

"These are fake solutions in search of a problem," added McConnell, noting that Republicans "will not be letting Washington Democrats abuse their razor-thin majorities in both chambers to overrule state and local governments and appoint themselves a national Board of Elections on steroids."

Changes in the newly negotiated election reform bill.

The new bill still encompasses sweeping election law changes, from voter ID requirements, expanded early voting, making Election Day a national holiday, banning partisan gerrymandering, and implementing election security and campaign finance measures.

But among the provisions dropped or changed is the automatic mailing of ballots. Under the new measure, any voter may request a mail-in ballot but they are not sent out automatically. The legislation will continue to allow voter roll purges but requires changes to be "done on the basis of reliable and objective evidence and prohibits the use of returned mail sent by third parties to remove voters."

The bill would also no longer implement public financing of presidential and congressional elections. Still, there are a number of election security provisions, including mandatory, nationwide use of machines that deliver paper ballots.

In an attempt to address Republican states that passed changes giving partisan officials a say in election outcomes following President Donald Trump’s false allegation that the 2020 presidential election was "stolen," Senate Democrats have proposed in the bill establishing "federal protections to insulate nonpartisan state and local officials who administer federal elections from undue partisan interference or control."

"The fact of the matter is that this legislation is critical for stopping some of the most egregious assaults against voting rights happening at the state level. A few weeks ago, the governor of Texas signed one of the most sweeping voter suppression bills in the entire country," Schumer said.

Voting rights advocates have praised the bill and are urging the Senate to pass the legislation.

"The Freedom to Vote Act is a very strong bill. It gives powerful new momentum to the fight to protect democracy. It should be passed, and soon," said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law.

"There is now no substitute for action. As redistricting unfolds across the country, time is of the essence. Lawmakers from both parties should embrace this new legislation, and will do so if they are serious about protecting democracy," he added.

It is unclear if this bill would garner the support of many Republicans, though Manchin has been talking to fellow moderate Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. The Minority blocked the Democrats’ first stab at the bill claiming it was a solution in search of a problem and maintaining that election administration is the province of states -- not the federal government.

Yet, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, signaled that there are provisions in the latest bill that she could support.

"He sent me a very high-level summary last week which they read, but it does not have many of the details fleshed out. There are two provisions in that if they're done correctly I would support. One is the disclosure of contributors to dark money groups, but it has to apply to all of them," Collins said.

Ten Republicans would be needed to overcome the chamber’s filibuster rule requiring 60 votes for most legislation. To modify that rule, all 50 Democrats would need to be on board with changing Senate rules to allow the legislation to pass on a simple majority vote -- with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie -- but Manchin has point blank refused to support such an extraordinary move.

"The filibuster is permanent," Manchin told ABC News when pressed on a voting rights specific carve-out.

At this point, it appears there is not likely to be enough GOP support to pass the measure, though Manchin said he's continuing conversations with Murkowski and that the Senate has "made some good strides" finding compromise.

"We made some major changes from the original position we're taking and we’ve got something that makes a lot of sense," Manchin told ABC News’ Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott on Tuesday.

"I’m anxious to go talk to all my Republican friends, which I’ve been doing, giving the outline of what we’re trying to change and see if there’s a filibuster," he added.

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responds to backlash over 'Tax the Rich' Met Gala gown

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(NEW YORK) -- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., responded Monday night to backlash sparked by her controversial Met Gala gown emblazoned with the words "Tax the Rich," saying she intended to carry the message into a wealthy space and borrowed the dress because "while the Met is known for its spectacle, we should have a conversation about it."

The New York congresswoman dominated talk about the gala on social media, with people calling her a hypocrite for wearing her economic justice message on the back of a fancy dress while attending a charity event attended by New York and Hollywood elites with tickets that cost $35,000 a pop.

Republicans on social media questioned why Ocasio-Cortez would attend an event for society’s elite if she wants to tax the rich.

Sen. Rich Scott, R-Fla., said in a tweet Tuesday that Ocasio-Cortez "wants to tax the rich but took time out of her busy schedule to hob knob with NY and Hollywood elites who paid $30k to attend the #MetGala (and deduct it from their taxes)."

Larry Elder, the conservative talk radio host running against Gov. Gavin Newsom in California’s recall election, tweeted the headline of an article about Ocasio-Cortez’s dress with the accompanying hashtag "#WeveGotACountryToSave."

Florida’s Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez also took to Twitter Monday night saying, "Only in America where a self-described Democratic socialist can wear a $10k “tax the rich" dress, pay $30k for a ticket, and be praised as a champion for the poor. Champagne socialists like AOC are far removed from reality."

Ocasio-Cortez was quick to respond, explaining on social media that New York City elected officials are often invited to the gala and attend "due to our responsibilities in overseeing our city’s cultural institutions that serve the public" -- pointing out that she was one of several of the city’s politicians in attendance.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., were also present at the annual event, which was canceled last year due to the coronavirus.

Ocasio-Cortez responded Tuesday on her Instagram story saying she thought about the criticism she would receive and that her body has been "policed from all corners politically" since she was elected to Congress.

"But we all had a conversation about Taxing the Rich in front of the very people who lobby against it," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on her Instagram story. "I am so used to doing the same exact thing that men do -- including popular male progressive elected officials -- and getting a completely different response."

Ocasio-Cortez also made note on her Instagram account that the dress was borrowed from designer Aurora James, who attended the gala along with the congresswoman.

James is the founder of Brother Vellies, a clothing brand focused on traditional African designs and sustainability, and the 15 Percent Pledge, a nonprofit that challenges major retailers to commit a minimum of 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses, according to their respective websites.

In an interview during Vogue’s livestream of the gala, Ocasio-Cortez and James explained the idea behind the controversial dress.

"We really started having a conversation about what it means to be working-class women of color at the Met, and we said, 'We can’t just play along, but we need to break the fourth wall and challenge some of the institutions,'" Ocasio-Cortez said. "And while the Met is known for its spectacle, we should have a conversation about it."

Ocasio-Cortez, on Instagram, said, "The time is now for childcare, healthcare, and climate action for all. Tax the Rich."

On CNN Tuesday morning, James reiterated that the concept behind the gown was to bring the message of economic justice to a gathering of the wealthy.

"The Met Gala is obviously one of the most exclusive events in the world, and we wanted to come and deliver a message. And I think when we talk about inclusion and gaining access to closed rooms for people of color, when you finally get a seat at the table you have to decide what the message is that you want to deliver," James said. "I think for the congresswoman, I think for myself, economic equality and economic justice is sort of top of mind."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


SCOTUS allowing Texas to mostly ban abortions 'very bad' but not political: Justice Breyer

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(NEW YORK) -- Justice Stephen Breyer said Tuesday the Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 decision allowing Texas to effectively ban abortion across the state was “very bad” but not politically motivated.

“We don’t trade votes, and members of the court have different judicial philosophies,” Breyer, the court’s most senior liberal justice, told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"Some emphasize more text. ... Some, like me, probably emphasize more purposes. And the great divisions are probably much more along those lines than what we would think of as political lines," Breyer said.

"I thought that was a very bad decision and I dissented,” he said.

The court’s denial of the request from Texas abortion providers to temporarily put state law SB8 on hold also drew sharp criticism from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote in dissent that the court chose to "ignore its constitutional obligations … the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law."

Breyer explained that "a rule of law means you sometimes follow decisions you don’t like."

The 83-year-old justice has published a new book -- "The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics" -- defending the Supreme Court as a nonpartisan institution whose power depends on credibility among Americans of all viewpoints.

"That’s a treasure, and it’s been built up over many many years," Breyer told Stephanopoulos.

"I am worried if people don’t understand it," he said, "they won’t have trust in our institutions. And if they don’t have trust in institutions, it becomes difficult if not impossible to live in a society of 331 million people of tremendous diversity."

Breyer, the court’s oldest member, has come under intense pressure from progressives to step down while Democrats control the Senate and White House.

He told GMA that he is thinking about retirement but has not yet made a decision on timing.

"There are many different considerations," Breyer said. "I do not intend to die there on the court; I hope not."

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Biden stands by Newsom, warns the country's future is on the ballot in California's recall election

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- Californians may be the only ones that can vote in Tuesday's recall election, but in his closing arguments for Gov. Gavin Newsom, President Joe Biden warned that the country's political future is on the ballot.

"This is not hyperbole. The eyes of the nation are on California because the decision you're about to make isn't just going to have a huge impact on California, it's going to reverberate around the nation, and quite frankly, not a joke, around the world," Biden stressed.

Biden rallied alongside Newsom Monday, first traveling to survey the fire damage from the Caldor Fire, then to Long Beach, California, to make one final pitch to voters.

His support for Newsom comes after a slew of top Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, traveled to the Golden State to campaign for the embattled governor.

On the eve of his recall election, Newsom main argument was one focused on Trumpism.

"We may have defeated Donald Trump, but we have not defeated Trumpism," he said. "Trumpism is still on the ballot in California and that's why it's so important, not just for all of us here at 40 million Americans strong in the nation's largest and most populous state, but also to send a statement, all across the United States of America, that Trumpism isn't ... has no place here."

It was a theme that Biden picked up, calling Republican front-runner Larry Elder a "clone of Donald Trump."

"This is the closest thing to a Trump clone that I've ever seen in your state. Now I really mean it. And he's leading the other team. He's a clone of Donald Trump ... you can't let that happen. There's too much at stake," he said.

"You either keep Gavin Newsom as your governor, or you'll get Donald Trump," Biden continued.

While both speeches largely focused on making comparisons between Elder and the former president, Biden did praise Newsom on many of his policies, such as Newsom's handling of the pandemic -- which is one of the main reasons the recall effort took off.

"We don't need politics in this battle against COVID. We need science. We need courage. We need leadership. We need Gavin Newsom. The governor will follow science. He's got the courage to do it right now," Biden said.

In another effort to nationalize the recall, Biden pointed to other states to warn voters of what could happen should Newsom be replaced.

"Do you have any doubt about how important it is to have Gavin, who respects women's rights? Just take a look at what's happening to states like Texas," Biden said. "It just passed a law empowering complete strangers ... become bounty hunters, going after women who exercise their right to choose. A law the United States Supreme Court refused to stop. Now other states say they're looking to replicate the Texas law. You don't think women's rights are under assault? You're not looking."

In Tuesday's election, voters will be asked two questions: Should Newsom be recalled? And if so, who should replace him?

At least 50% of voters will have to vote no on Tuesday's recall in order for Newsom to keep his job.

As election day gets closer, Newsom's job security is looking better, as 57.3% of voters say they'll vote no, according to FiveThirtyEight's polling average.

While Newsom's team has expressed confidence in his ability to make it though Tuesday's recall, his ally, Biden, wrapped up his remarks Monday night with a stark warning: it's not over yet.

"You have a governor to make sure Donald Trump's dark, destructive divisive politics never finds a place in California. So please -- not a joke -- on behalf of the people of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, all across America, don't take anything for granted," the president said.

Although Californians will make their voices heard at the ballot box, candidates on both sides are warning of potential legal challenges that could follow.

Elder, who would not say if he would accept the results of Tuesday's election in an interview with ABC News' Zohreen Shah, has already started making claims of fraud.

On his campaign website, Elder has linked to a "Stop CA Fraud" page where voters can report fraud. While no votes have been calculated yet, the page already claims: "Statistical analyses used to detect in elections held in 3rd world nations...have detected fraud in California resulting in Governor Gavin Newsom being reinstated as governor."

John Mehta Stein, executive director of California Common Cause, a nonpartisan, liberal-leaning political advocacy organization, told ABC News that such claims should be expected.

"There will inevitably be claims that the election is rigged because the purveyors of the 'big lie' need these local and state elections in between the major national elections to keep up their momentum; but all of their allegations in the November 2020 election fell flat," Stein said. "There's nothing new under the sun here. And we assume that there will be lawsuits filed after the recall and they will be treated the same way as the lawsuits in the 2020 election."

Stein said misinformation in the recall could also undermine and limit turnout among the voters that those who are sowing the misinformation are trying to reach.

But such misinformation, he said, has "no basis in the realities of California's election administration, which has been stress-tested repeatedly and proven to be some of the most secure, most reliable elections in the nation."

That reliability will be put to the test Tuesday in an election with profound national consequences.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Gov. Gavin Newsom faces potential ousting in California recall election

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(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Voters who haven't already cast their ballots by mail head to the polls Tuesday to weigh in on whether they would like to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Californians are faced with a two-part question -- if they would like to recall Newsom and who they would like to replace him with. If more than 50% of voters say he should be recalled, he will be replaced with the highest vote-getter in the recall field, which consists of 46 candidates.

This is the fourth time in the nation's history that voters have had an election to recall their governor, and only one governor has been recalled in the last century. In 2003, Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis, facing extremely low approval ratings, was recalled and replaced with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This time, Republicans have a crowded primary field and, before nationally syndicated conservative radio host Larry Elder's entrance into the race, the field was without a clear leader.

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer was once thought to be the front-runner and is seen as the moderate in the race. Businessman John Cox, who was the GOP's gubernatorial nominee in 2018, campaigned across the state with a live bear and an 8-foot ball of trash. Reality star and Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner entered the recall field, although she spent some time out of the country in Australia, reportedly filming a celebrity edition of a reality show.

Although numbers appear to be in his favor, Newsom recruited some of the biggest Democratic heavy-hitters to stump for him, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. President Joe Biden hit the trail with Newsom to close out his campaign in Long Beach, California, on Monday night.

“This is not hyperbole. The eyes of the nation are on California because the decision you're about to make isn’t just going to have a huge impact on California, it's going to reverberate around the nation, and quite frankly not a joke around the world," Biden said Monday.

According to a recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, Newsom's approval rating is sitting at 53%, and 58% of voters said they do not want him to be recalled. In 2003, exit polls showed Davis' approval rating at 26% -- a stark difference from where Newsom is today.

Historically, gubernatorial recalls produce similar vote margins for the governor holding office as they had in their last election, according to recall expert and senior fellow at Wagner College, Joshua Spivak. Gray Davis got 47% of the vote in 2002, and 44% in 2003 when he was recalled. In Wisconsin in 2010, Scott Walker was elected with 52.2% of the vote, and defeated his recall with 53.1%.

In 2018, Newsom won the state with 61.9% of the vote to GOP nominee John Cox's 38.1%. In 2020, Biden carried with a similar margin, 63.5% of the vote to Trump's 34.3%.

Democratic voter registration in the Golden State largely outpaces that of both Republicans and independents, putting Newsom at an advantage. So far, Democrats are leading both groups combined when it comes to returning their ballots: Democrats have returned nearly 4.1 million compared to the 3.8 million Republican and independent ballots that have been returned, according Monday data from Political Data Inc.

Democrats have attempted to nationalize the race to increase enthusiasm, warning of lawmaking similar to that of Republican-led states.

Harris, a native of the Bay Area, rallied with Newsom on Thursday and warned of the national consequences the recall could have if it was successful, referencing the recent change in abortion laws in Texas, among other things.

"What's happening in Texas, what's happening in Georgia, what's happening around our country with these policies that are about attacking women's rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, workers rights, they think if they can win in California they can do this anywhere, but we're gonna show them they can't," Harris said.

The pandemic being a top issue across the state, Newsom has spent the campaign warning voters about potential policy changes surrounding the coronavirus if the recall passed. His team released an ad painting the election as "life or death." He has singled out Elder's promises that he will immediately end mask mandates and testing for state employees.

Spivak told ABC News that the threat of a leading candidate among the recall field, which was lacking before Elder joined the race two months ago, was helpful to Newsom in solidifying his message.

"He was really helped by Larry Elder eventually being the front-runner, because it gave him a comparison. Before he was trying to make it Newsom versus Trump, but Trump isn't on the ballot," Spivak said. "Larry Elder is, so Larry Elder can be Trump, play the role of Trump. And Larry Elder was obviously very happy to play the role … it was beneficial to both of them."

Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, are already raising the alarm about the potential for voter fraud, based in conspiracies about the 2020 election. Trump claimed that the election is "probably rigged." Elder warned of "shenanigans" last week -- though he told ABC News Saturday, "So many people are going to vote to have it recalled, I'm not worried about fraud."

Elder had previously said that he believed Biden won the 2020 election "fairly and squarely." But he is now encouraging his supporters to call a hotline to report issues of voter fraud for litigation purposes in the recall, saying he fears there will be integrity issues similar to those of the 2020 election -- despite there being no widespread evidence of voter fraud in November.

"We're going to file lawsuits in a timely fashion," Elder said last week.

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